October 23, 2009

Top 347 countdown
No. 14 Michigan
Coach: John Beilein (third season).
Last season's record: 21-14 overall, 9-9 in Big Ten (tied for seventh in league).
Postseason: Lost in the second round of NCAA tournament to Oklahoma.
Final regular-season RPI: 44th.
Last time didn't make NCAA field: 2008.
Returning starters: 4.


After reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998 and winning a game in the Big Dance for the first time since the Fab Five days, Michigan has reason to believe better things are on the horizon. The Wolverines go into their third season under John Beilein with their top five scorers back. Four of their projected starters started at least 22 games last season. Fans have plenty of reason for excitement, but there still are some areas that need to improve; most notably, the Wolverines went 4-8 against other Big Ten teams that made the tournament.

Manny Harris is one of four returning starters.

F DeShawn Sims, 6-8/235, Sr.
G Stu Douglass, 6-3/185, Soph.
G Manny Harris, 6-5/185, Jr.
G Laval Lucas-Perry, 6-3/185, Soph.
G Zack Novak, 6-5/210, Soph.
C Ben Cronin, 7-0/265, R-Fr.
F Zack Gibson, 6-10/220, Sr.
F Anthony Wright, 6-6/235, Jr.
G Darius Morris, 6-4/180, Fr.
G Matt Vogrich, 6-4/180, Fr.


Beilein's style emphasizes guard play, but Michigan still needs better frontcourt production than it had last season, especially on defense. DeShawn Sims is an All-Big Ten candidate after averaging 15.4 points. Sims can be a fine outside player, but in Michigan's system, he often is the lone forward. As a result, the Wolverines were outrebounded by 3.2 boards per game. When Michigan needs more size, there's center Ben Cronin, a redshirt freshman, and forwards Zack Gibson and Anthony Wright.


The heart and soul for Michigan is junior Manny Harris. He was the only player in the Big Ten to finish in the top six in scoring (16.9), rebounding (6.8) and assists (4.4). Harris is one of the most dangerous scorers in the country; he improved his shooting from 38 percent as a freshman to 41.5 percent as a sophomore. He and Sims, though, could use some help. They were the only Wolverines to average more than 6.7 points per game. Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Laval Lucas-Perry were freshmen last season and went through some growing pains. Douglass and Novak are 3-point threats. The biggest of the four guards, Novak usually gets the assignment of guarding an opponent's frontcourt player.


Michigan is hoping for more than simply an NCAA tournament appearance. The ceiling is high given the returning talent. Michigan showed it could hang with the nation's top teams when it was at its best; the task this season is making sure those moments happen more frequently.

More Rivals.com 2009-10 Preseason 347 Countdown

Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.


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